How Much Should Web App Development Cost?
What impacts the cost of web application development, and how should you go about selecting a development team?
Custom web application development is all the rage. As consumer expectations continue to change, so must the various enterprise strategies required to attract, engage, and retain customers. In the past, an informative website and a responsive call center were considered cutting edge and all a company needed to provide for its customers. Today, consumers demand more. They want to connect with a brand, conduct their business, get their information, and move on – with the touch of a button and with as little friction as possible.
The mobile app is still popular (there were 197 billion mobile app downloads in 2017), but an even simpler way for consumers to interact with brands is found via web application development. Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are the newest shift. These apps provide a mobile-like experience with the benefits of instant accessibility. PWAs are accessible through the browser and don’t require multiple steps to use (such as going to the app store and downloading the app, continually updating the app, or sacrificing memory to support it).
Web application developers are racing to the front lines to help organizations capitalize on the benefits. They promise to bring organizations into next-gen software development, but are their services worth the investment?
How Much Does a Web App Cost?
The short answer is “it depends”. Web app development can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s a significant investment for any business, no matter what side of this scale you fall on. How much you spend should depend on how much value the app will create.
Large investments are only worth it if you realize a higher level of value (for example, scaling your business 3x, 5x, or even 10x). If you’re not looking to make that kind of investment, you can expect to save money but don’t expect the product to make a long-lasting impact on your business. How much web app development costs will depend on what your goal is. Are you:
- Building a web app to transform and grow your business, OR
- Building a web app that offers new functions without new value
The Cost of Developing A Web App to Transform And Grow Your Business
If you’re looking to build a reproducible digital solution that you can monetize or sell to other companies, you’ll need a fully functional minimum viable product you can launch with confidence. This popular web app development route usually costs more to execute, but promises far greater rewards in terms of value for your customers. It may provide you the capacity to become an industry disruptor who owns the competition.
“There has never been a better time to start digital businesses that reach ultimate status: They become hyper scalable ventures.” – Omar Mohout, entrepreneur, speaking in an article for StartUs Magazine
If you’re looking to successfully develop a web application that will enable cost-effective hyper-scalability for your business, you should be prepared to pay for the following services:
- Market Validation and Product Strategy: Refine your product concept and verify the market need. Identify who will use your product as well as the “why” and “how” based on what users want, need, and will pay for.
- Prototyping and User Research: Conduct user research and usability testing on a working prototype before development to make sure the product concept satisfies objectives. Testing allows development to start in the right direction, and is the only way to accurately anticipate the cost before building.
- Virtual CTO: Big-picture guidance on how to create and position a product for the most lucrative results (if needed).
- Design and Build: It can take months to design and build a web application that succeeds with end users.
Cost of Developing A Web App That Offers New Functions Without New Value
Some web apps aren’t designed to make an impact, but instead to fulfill a function. The product should work as intended, without necessarily solving any core business dilemmas. The product may save time performing certain tasks, but is unlikely to generate new revenue. This type of web application development is generally the lower cost project of the two approaches.
Companies building this kind of web app don’t invest in research and testing because they aren’t concerned about nailing down a concept that resonates with users; you’re simply paying for someone to execute your requirements, minus higher-level web app development costs that go into testing and validating a concept to completely transform operations or services. You won’t know how the product resonates with end users until launch, because there’s little to no pre-build research.
Web Application Development Considerations
The investment can seem intimidating, so before you make a decision on whether the cost of custom web application development is worth it for you, consider the following drivers:
- You Can’t Stop Change: Convenience and simplicity are driving the shift from mobile apps to web apps. If you don’t follow suit, you will be left behind.
- Customers Demand It: Your customers are experiencing the benefits of web apps from other brands, making this technology increasingly essential for you to stay competitive.
- It Can Simplify Your Strategy: Companies are already seeing the benefits of solid web application development (no downloads necessary, for example) and questioning whether a native mobile app is even necessary.
- A Good Experience is Critical: Mobile websites don’t always have the best reputation for offering a mobile app-like experience. By placing the customer at the forefront, a web application can deliver both functionality and a positive user experience.
In many cases, these drivers will point you in the direction of custom development.
Benefits of Outsourcing Web App Development
Now you’ve decided to develop a custom web app, it’s time to choose a team. Many companies choose to outsource the work, rather than engage an in-house team. In fact, Gartner reports that outsourcing development talent continues to surpass annual global benchmarks.
As with mobile apps, custom web applications require highly skilled talent and a team of experienced people who understand the various technologies and processes required. A Deloitte survey revealed that outsourcing helped companies to spark innovation, help solve global capacity issue(s), expand access to intellectual capital, and improve efficiency.
The benefits of outsourcing versus hiring in-house developers are many:
Hiring talent can be expensive. Beyond paying skilled workers to design, develop, test, launch and update your web application, you have to spend time and money finding this talent; the average U.S. employer spends approximately $4,000 and 24 days to hire each new worker. You also need to purchase different technologies for your developers to use. Custom web application development is often more cost-effective to outsource.
Demand for features, design, and function are constantly changing, as are the technologies required to support them. Outsourcing provides access to the best talent in each area of development, and will bring all the right people to the table and stand behind their work.
One of the biggest benefits of custom development is that you can create an app that sets you apart and gives you an edge in penetrating markets, as described by Forbes. Differentiating a brand requires innovative thinking, which can come from a team of developers who have seen what works and what doesn’t, knows what questions to ask, and how to validate an idea.
When you outsource, you can allocate your in-house resources to spend time on other things. Knowing development is in good hands while your team conducts other business brings peace of mind, efficiency, and productivity.
Beyond Web App Development Costs: Choosing the Right Company
Technology may be considered the most critical aspect of your web application, but the development company you choose is equally as important. Once you’ve decided to outsource, there are still many factors that go into the decision of who to outsource to.
Technology changes rapidly, and must be chosen on a project-by-project basis. This means your team needs an intimate knowledge of the pros and cons of all of the various technologies required to launch a web app.
- Server-side programming that requires the right technology to make the application function the way it was intended (programming languages and databases to a caching system and server).
- Client side, or what actual users see on their screens. All of this takes experience in employing multiple and emerging technologies, and understanding how they all relate.
There are a few things the development team will consider when they choose your technology stack:
- Type of web application you are building
- User experience the application needs to provide
- Level of complexity of the application
- Business goals
How much a web app costs will be directly impacted by the items above, as well as the time it takes your application to be developed and released. The longer the sprint, the higher the cost. If you can integrate with third-party solutions, utilize out-of-the-box functionality where possible, find code support when needed, and easily test for bugs, you’ll speed time-to-market and in turn, reduce costs. Every potential web app development technology you and your team choose will either increase or decrease expenses.
As you can see, choosing the right developers who will use the right technology stack for your project is critical and has a large impact on how much it will cost to develop your custom web application.